With help from Celtics co-owner, Krush to expand sports product 'pretail' biz

Krush CEO Gina Ashe says its 'pretail' site is set to get a big product expansion, with the addition of products from the worlds of basketball, baseball and other sports.

Cambridge-based Krush Inc. plans to grow from offering previews and pre-sales of unreleased action sports products to include products from basketball, baseball, hockey and other sports, CEO Gina Ashe said Monday.

The move is being driven by the startup's newest investor, Raptor Ventures, founded and managed by Celtics minority owner James Pallotta. Raptor led the company's $4.6 million fundraise that closed in late December, Ashe said.

The team at Raptor Ventures, based in Boston and New York City, and its business development wing Raptor Accelerator have deep connections with major athletics brands and professional sports teams, she said. Along with the Celtics ownership stake, Pallotta is also a shareholder in the AS Roma soccer club.

While Krush already works with brands such as Nike    that are big players in products from "stick-and-ball" sports, the new help from Raptor is "bringing us a lot of brands that we don't have relationships with."

"These are brands it would've taken us years to connect with," Ashe said.

Ashe said she expects Krush will start offering previews and pre-sales of products from the new sports within six to eight weeks. The site began offering presales on products from action sports — such as snowboarding and skateboarding — last fall.

Krush believes it's the first example of a new space of retail, which Ashe dubs "pretail." The startup works with Nike, Quiksilver and other brands to offer sneak peeks on items eight to nine months before they’re set to hit the stores.

Krush members rate and comment on the goods, and Krush analyzes the data for the companies — offering details such as how popular (or unpopular) an item is across different demographics and geographies.

Ashe said the site is now expected to offer products from sports including soccer, basketball, hockey, baseball and lacrosse.

She said the addition of new sports will be a natural fit. "If you're into snowboarding and skateboarding, and into streetwear and music, you're probably also into basketball," Ashe said.

More than 150 brands are currently featured on Krush, and includes products from other action sports including surfing, wakeboarding, BMX and motocross. An average of 4,762 different products are rated on the site per month, Ashe said.

The average age of users on the site is 23.8, and users spend an average of 17.48 minutes on the site, she said.

Also backing Krush are Boston Seed Capital of Newton and Tennessee Community Ventures, which both took part in the recent fundraising and in the company's initial $2 million round in 2010.

Raptor Ventures managing director Harry DeMott is working with Krush, as is Sean Barror, co-managing director of RaptorAccelerator. The firm is the VC arm of Boston-based Raptor Capital Management, founded by Pallotta.

Raptor Ventures disclosed in September that it planned to raise its first venture capital fund, targeting $75 million (the firm hasn't updated the filing since then). Its first investment went into SecurityPoint Media, a Florida-based company that places advertising at airport security checkpoints, in October.
 

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